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Pacific Trail to Become Division of London Fog

NEW YORK -- Tracking expansion opportunities under its new management, London Fog Corp. said Tuesday that it will merge with Pacific Trail to bolster its position in women's, men's and children's outerwear.<BR><BR>The merged company will continue to...

NEW YORK — Tracking expansion opportunities under its new management, London Fog Corp. said Tuesday that it will merge with Pacific Trail to bolster its position in women’s, men’s and children’s outerwear.

The merged company will continue to be called London Fog, with Pacific Trail, based in Seattle, becoming a division.

“This is the first major step in the ongoing growth and revitalization of London Fog,” said Arnold P. Cohen, who has been chairman and chief executive officer of the Eldersburg, Md.-based rainwear and outerwear giant since July. Before that, he was president of J. Crew Group.

“We see an opportunity to strengthen and grow Pacific Trail, a regional brand, which has had a stronger following in the Northwest where it started,” he added.

Cohen projected revenues for the merged company at around $500 million in 1994. Pacific Trail, a $60 million firm, is a private firm controlled by GKH Partners.

London Fog, a $350 million firm, is controlled by Merrill Lynch Capital Partners, which also controls Ann Taylor Stores Corp. and Pathmark Stores, among other companies.

“We’re looking at businesses to merge with or acquire, to continue to strengthen London Fog,” Cohen said. “There may be some outside the outerwear market. The Pacific Trail merger sets a clear tone to how we think about our business.”

Compared with London Fog, Pacific Trail has a more active and youthful appeal, reflecting its Northwest roots. Its prices are moderate to lower moderate; London Fog’s are moderate to upper moderate.

According to Cohen, Pacific Trail will maintain “a significant presence in Seattle,” including the design and merchandising teams and the children’s wear division. He said he wants to keep alive “the creative spirit on the West Coast that’s very different from the East Coast.” Asked whether some of Pacific Trail’s operations could be moved to Maryland, Cohen declined comment. He also declined to comment on plans for Ron Epperson, president of Pacific Trail. Reached in Seattle, Epperson said his plans have not been decided.

Specifics of the transaction were not disclosed. It’s a stock swap, under which Merrill Lynch will hold a majority stake in the combined company’s common equity and GKH Partners. Management of London Fog and Pacific Trail will also have ownership in the company.

The deal is expected be closed by the end of February. A letter of intent has been signed.

“There are a great deal of potential synergies between the businesses,” said Cohen. He said the merger will provide London Fog with greater purchasing power and lead to efficiencies and cost savings in several areas, including production, shipping and managing receivables under one system.

In addition, he said, the merger will lead to growth in several categories, among them children’s outerwear as well as private label production, and he cited the possibility of launching “Pacific Trail Originals” a line featuring classic looks from the company, which is more than 50 years old. He characterized Pacific Trail’s ski wear as a “very undeveloped business” currently doing $8 million to $12 million in annual sales, which could double its volume in two or three years.

“We’re looking to grow our women’s business and Pacific Trail is in it significantly,” Cohen observed. London Fog also manufactures some women’s sportswear sold exclusively at London Fog’s chain of 115 outlets. London Fog was founded in the Twenties.

The merger links some high-powered investors to London Fog, including Dan Lufkin, founder of Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette investment banking, and Jay and Tom Pritzker, chairman and president of Hyatt Corp. They are all members of GKH. Mel Klein, another partner in GKH, will join the London Fog board, along with Lufkin, who now will also serve on London Fog’s executive committee.

Others on the board — along with Cohen — are James D. Milligan, former president and ceo of Sunbeam Corp. and chairman of London Fog’s executive committee; Robert C. Grayson, former president of Lerner New York; John Varvatos, London Fog vice chairman and executive vice president, and Douglas C. Hillman, president.

Robert F. End of Merrill Lynch Capital is also on the executive committee.

In addition, William D. Richins has been named senior vice president and chief financial officer. He was chief financial officer of Linens ‘n Things, a Melville Corp. division.